Complex neuronal functions rely upon the precise sorting, targeting, and restriction of receptors to specific synaptic microdomains. Little is known, however, of the molecular signals responsible for mediating these selective distributions. Here we report that metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 7a (mGluR7a) is polarized at the basolateral surface when expressed in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells but is not polarized when expressed in cultured hippocampal neurons. Truncation of the mGluR7 cytoplasmic tail produces a protein that is restricted to a perinuclear intracellular compartment in both neurons and MDCK cells, where this protein colocalizes with a trans-Golgi network antigen. The mGluR7 cytoplasmic domain appended to the transmembrane portion of the vesicular stomatitis virus G protein and the ectodomain of human placental alkaline phosphatase is distributed over the entire cell surface in cultured neurons. When expressed in MDCK cells, this construct remains in an intracellular compartment distinct from endosomes or lysosomes. Thus, the cytoplasmic tail domain of mGluR7 is necessary but not sufficient for polarized targeting in MDCK monolayers, whereas in neurons the cytoplasmic tail is sufficient for cell surface expression but not polarization. Additional mechanisms are likely required to mediate mGluR7 neuronal polarization and synaptic clustering.
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